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by Katie Mackintosh
22 December 2014
Brown offered “most convincing arguments” for voting yes, says Burns

Brown offered “most convincing arguments” for voting yes, says Burns

In an exclusive interview with Holyrood magazine, Scotland’s former Chief Medical Officer, Sir Harry Burns, has spoken of his reasons for endorsing Scottish independence. 

“The most convincing arguments for voting Yes were the ones that Gordon Brown offered,” said Burns.

“Gordon Brown said there is no question of the health service being privatised. He was clearly out of touch because the health service will have to be privatised if this Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership goes through.”

Burns, who is now Professor of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde, highlighted that following the vote a statistically significant correlation was found between areas that voted Yes and life expectancy. 

“Basically, the more likely an area was to vote Yes, the lower its life expectancy. Glasgow and Dundee voted Yes. It was places like Orkney and Shetland that had the highest No votes and the highest life expectancy. And the correlation was statistically significant. 

“So the people whose lives were blighted, I suppose you could say, or felt least in control as measured by life expectancy were the ones most likely to vote for change. And the young people of course. It was characterised as hope versus fear and that is pretty much how the figures looked at the end of the day.”

Of the planned new powers for Scotland, Burns warned: “It is the old thing of beware of Greeks bearing gifts. You can see obvious bear traps in a lot of this.”

And he suggested that the surge in pro-independence party membership following the referendum indicates that people have not given up campaigning for more control over their lives.

“I think the response in the days following September 18th when there were all these Yes demonstrations, the 45 idea, was a manifestation of that. People who felt not in control had been enlivened to think they still had a chance. I think that is what is going on. I think that is why 80,000 people joined the SNP and so on.”

Burns said the question is why would Scotland not want to be independent?

“There is something about small countries being more nimble footed and more able to adapt and do things cleverly. And God knows, Scotland has a history of being very clever in lots of things. So it seems to me that the more we can support education, the more we can bring people up to be entrepreneurial and innovative, why would we not want to do that?”

Burns, who recently received the lifetime achievement award at Holyrood magazine’s first Scottish Public Services Awards in recognition of his lasting contribution to Scottish public service, also continued to emphasise the need for sustained investment in early years and criticised the UK Government for instead being “hell bent on this path of austerity that just continues to condemn people at the lower end of the social scale to more and more hopelessness”.  

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